The “Bad” of Becoming an Actor
A GREAT HIGH
Here’s a strange phenomenon I’m sure you’ve experienced.
You’re flying to see your family for the holidays and you strike up a conversation with the person next to you, a complete stranger. Life has brought you outside of the arts-community bubble for a moment and here you are with a true blue regular (probably more sane) civilian. Invariably they’ll ask, “What do you do?”
If you’re anything like me, you anticipate this question with an uneasy glee and respond as cool as possible. “Oh, I am an actor.”
I can describe to you the look I’m about to get before I even get it. The eyes and smile widen, the voice gets a little higher…suddenly they’re bursting with energy and inspiration. You know what I mean?
“It’s amazing that you’re following your dreams. Good for you!”
It’s addictive, this moment. Like all addictions it is validating and self-centering, full of relief and purpose. But, also like all addictions, there’s shame. Because I know that the image they have in their heads…red carpets, Academy Awards, glamor and glitz, is certainly not my experience. In fact, the subsequent question is usually “have I seen you in anything?”
Still, however, this fantasy pervades my own experience as well! I often envision a day where I won’t have to work so hard, coasting from blockbuster to arthouse indie, having scripts sent to my Malibu mansion while I launch my own brand of hand-crafted tequila. My fellow passenger’s mirage of my life will, one day, just appear for me.
However, there’s also part of me that wants to tell him, “Hey, my good fellow! It’s actually not all it’s cracked up to be. It’s a real struggle, it’s a lot of hard work!” Then I’d go on to paint a picture of myself, gaunt in a ratty peacoat, sipping espresso in a West Village cafe, people-watching and pondering the deep psychological and emotional mysteries of the human experience. The suffering, struggling, starving, yet passionate artiste.
I don’t know about you, but whenever I need a little dopamine rush my mind will invariably bounce between these two delusions. They are killer highs, man.
THE SOBER TRUTH
Whether you’ve been pounding the pavement for years, are brand new to the industry, or are simply contemplating acting as a future, it’s important to recognize the factual and mostly negative aspects of this job. And frankly they aren’t as sexy as
too much paparazzi” or the “starving yet fulfilled artist existence”.
So what are the bad things about becoming an actor? Here are a few big ones:
- Constantly losing your job: Most people get jobs and keep them. Yes, they may change careers a few times in their lives, but that’s a choice they can make when they’re good and ready. Actors, even successful ones, are unemployed most of the time. It’s hard to create a sense of sustainability, consistency and safety with this lifestyle.
- Fantasy versus reality: Our culture props up false expectations of what it means to be an actor. Oftentimes, the actor is not told to exercise personal responsibility and accountability as a small business owner, but instead wait for luck and magic to bring them opportunity after opportunity.
- Oversaturated market, not enough opportunities: Here’s a big one that is pretty self-explanatory. Yes, the amount of content is insane these days, but it’s more competitive than ever kiddies. When you are competing against tens of thousands of talented people, and what makes someone “better” is entirely subjective, how the heck do you stand out?
- False job description: Related to number 2, but probably the biggest one. Most artists get into their art to follow their passion and not settle for doing something they don’t want to do (a normal job). However, unfortunately the idea that you could just focus on the fun stuff (acting) and nothing else and live a sustainable life works for about 1% of people who come into this industry.
I don’t know about you, but when I get wrapped up in the romance of being an actor…whether it’s fame and fortune or the purposeful and minimalist life of the artiste I have to laugh and come back to reality. Just like any job, there’s gonna be a whole lot of work I am not going to feel like doing or want to do as an actor. In fact, like most jobs, that may be a majority of my job.
However, for me anyway, the reward is worth it. Every time!